At a time when even the best picture isn’t really the best picture, what can be trusted? The story of fake news is massive. In fact, more seems to be written lately about ”fake news” than actual fake news stories are written. Visit a credible news site these days and you’ll likely see a warning against the spread of fake news.

It’s everywhere at the moment, fake news. At a time when people are more likely to source their news from social media than reputable news sources, it can be tricky to know what’s real and what's not. It became something we spoke about just after the US election late last year. That’s when people started questioning whether the spread of fake news had contributed to Donald Trump’s election as US president.

What’s on Facebook is real

Even Facebook stepped into the discussion with boss Mark Zuckerberg saying the majority of what’s seen on the social networking giant is real. They’ve starting using AI and bots to remove these stories from feeds. “Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news. We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here. We have made progress, and we will continue to work on this to improve further.”

Search trends

According to Google Trends, interest in the topic spiked in November last year, just days after the US election. Where were the most searches happening? In the US, UK, Ireland, Singapore and Canada. And a related, rising search term? “Trump CNN fake news”.

Reality hacking

It’s been reported that government and security services across Europe are sounding the alarm about the possibility of upcoming elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands being rigged. This, as concerns increase about growing cyber security attacks on political parties and government institutions.

Fake news serves to fuel support for ideas that otherwise would have had no traction as they provide legitimacy to them. It also takes away legitimacy from real news sites because people don’t want to believe stories they don’t like the sound of. What fake news is doing is taking away power from real facts and pandering to a desire to only hear what we want to hear while totally blocking out the rest of the information.

The reality is that cyber attacks and the spread of false information and fake news online has the power to harm your company’s reputation. This is something which should be on the radar of every business owner.

How does fake news impact your business?

The sad truth is, the dangerous combination of social media and fake news has the power to demonize a person or company. One example is a false story published late last year in which Pepsi was purported to refuse service to Trump supporters. The story did so much damage it was found that Pepsi’s sentiment score dropped 35 percent below average because of the publication. It’s been found that the damage caused by the spread of fake news can be significant and, in the case of Trump’s election, even world changing.

How can you protect your business?

  • Don't share news on your social networks until you’ve verified their claims. This means only using news from trusted providers and journalists. Always, when checking if news is factual, make sure to check the source of the information. This means, if a story is claiming to be about New York City, check the social networks and website of the city. If a link to the story isn’t on that site or social network, it’s likely to be false and needs further investigation. Your business can not be known as a distributor of fake news and false information.
  • Keep up to date with online changes. Keeping updated with changes to algorithms and the like will mean you won’t be taken by surprise.

If you’re interested in the spread of fake news, read our recent article in which we discussed how Facebook is using AI and bots to remove fake news. It talks more about the problem of fake news and what exactly the solution is of the social networking giant.

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